I was honored to be invited by the Principal of the middle school at California School for the Deaf to be guest speaker at their annual 8th grade promotion ceremony. I made the speech to the 8th graders last week, and would like to share my speech with you.
Looking back to the post I did on Steve Jobs last year, 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish' was a quote Jobs used in his graduation speech at Stanford University. As I watched the young emcees explain how they chose the ceremony theme, and how fitting it was inviting me to share my journey with them.
I realized the first speech I had ever given was at my own 8th grade promotion ceremony 24 years ago, also at the same school. And here I am giving the speech at the very same event! That was amazing - to see that coming to a full circle.
Russ, my husband and I run Mozzeria, a wood burning pizzeria in San Francisco. I wear many hats at Mozzeria. Besides managing Mozzeria, I make the pizza dough, create pizza recipes, develop the pizza menu, work with both Front of House and Back of House, brainstorm ideas and marketing strategies, and even serve customers at times. How did I get there? The journey was challenging. Let me share my journey with you all.
I was born in Hong Kong to my hearing parents and two years later, my younger brother was born. He is also Deaf. My parents wanted me and my brother to obtain proper education. They sent us to Deaf schools in several countries, but weren't quite satisfied until they learned about Deaf Schools in America. They went to California, and checked out California School for the Deaf in Berkeley (before the school relocated to Fremont the following summer). They met with Dr. Klopping, then-superintendent who was fluent in American Sign Language and also met teachers who are also Deaf. That gave my parents hope. They decided, eventually, to move our family to America in 1980. I still remember the first day at school in Fremont, and being in a brand new town.
I got the first taste of leadership when I became a member of Jr. Eagles during my Middle School years and my parents decided to open their Shanghai restaurant, Wu Kong in downtown San Francisco the following summer. They hosted a grand opening party and I was inspired and in awe of them. That was when I knew I wanted to run a restaurant one day.
In High School, I participated in several organizations and competed in Sports. Little did I know that what I learned during my High School years would apply to the real world. I will share some examples in a short while. When I reached at a point where I wanted to reevaluate my career and my husband knew how much I wanted to run a restaurant. We both knew there were risks involved especially with finances. It became easier once I got my husband's full support. I jetted off to Italy and learned how to make pizza dough. My mom accompanied me on that trip and was my ASL interpreter. My husband loved the pizzas I made after the Italy trip.
The next step was to write a business plan. It took me back to my High School and College years where I had to write term paper and reports. I had a basic understanding how to write the business plan but yes, the business plan required a lot of research and data. I remembered how many times I had to submit to my teacher's satisfaction. I reviewed and rewrote the business plan many times until we were satisfied.
Now was the time to visit the bank for a loan. I was stunned to learn that they wouldn't read and approve our application, even though we had an excellent relationship with the banker. They simply said restaurants are high-risk investment, and that nearly 90% of new restaurants close within a year. I wouldn't let that statistic scare me, and I stayed stubborn. While I was part of the Jr. National Association for the Deaf organization, I had been introduced to "Crisis". The advisors would throw a situation at us, the students, and we had to come up with possible alternative solutions. We had to think of different scenarios, and come up with results.
Now back to the bank situation, I had to think of another way to search for funds. I turned to individuals even though I didn't know some of them personally, but I shared my dream with them. Yes, sure I got rejections but kept going until I found several individuals who believed in me and my dream.
Yay! I found enough funds to start the Mozzeria project. The next step was to find a home for Mozzeria. When I was chairperson for Prom during my High School years, I was instructed to look for a location for the Prom. I chose a yacht in San Francisco as the Prom's location, and learned how to negotiate the rental fee. I also selected individuals who I felt could do best in their areas such as decorations, program book, awards, etc. on the Prom committee. This also pretty much applies to what I was doing with Mozzeria.
I found the location for Mozzeria based on foot traffic, demographics, etc. Russ and I hired skilled laborers who are Deaf. We are very proud of what they had accomplished in their area of expertise. It took us 5 months to compete the renovations, and we finally launched Mozzeria on December 9, 2011.
I want to take this moment to thank you all my teachers and staff who guided me through my 12 years at CSD - their wisdom, and providing me with tools.
Yes, there are times where I felt I should give up after many obstacles but I was reminded of Jobs' quote, Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. I wanted to set an example for my children, and now I feel great that we overcame many obstacles.
As you prepare to enter High School this coming Fall, you have 4 years to try everything - participate in organizations, compete in Sports and excel in school. These skills will come in handy eventually. Make the best of your 4 years in High School. Remember this - If you believe in yourself, anything is possible. I wish you all the best and Congratulations!